Breast Cancer Center

Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast cancer treatment
Staging breast cancer

If breast cancer is diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the breast or to other parts of the body. This process is called staging. The stage assigned to breast cancer is based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread.  Staging may involve x-rays and lab tests to identify whether the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of your body. Sometimes the stage often is not known until after a surgery.  The type and stage of breast cancer tells doctors what kind of treatment will be needed.

The chance of recovery and treatment options for breast cancer will also depend on the following:

  • Age, general health and menstrual status
  • Beast cancer stage
  • Breast cancer type
  • Estrogen-receptor and progesterone-receptor levels in the tumor tissue
  • Human epidermal growth factor type 2 receptors (HER2/neu) levels
  • How fast the tumor is growing.
  • New cancer diagnosis or recurrence

Common treatments
Breast cancer treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early. Breast cancer is treated in several ways and a treatment program will depend on both the kind of breast cancer diagnosed and how far it has spread. People diagnosed with breast cancer often receive more than one kind of treatment.  Main treatment modalities include:

Biological therapy - This treatment works with your body's immune system to help it fight cancer or to control side effects from other cancer treatments.

Chemotherapy - Special medicines or drugs that shrink or kill the cancer. The drugs can be pills you take or medicines given through an intravenous (IV) tube, or, sometimes, both.

Clinical trials - Clinical trials are research studies that help find new treatment options. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides a database of clinical trials for breast cancer.

Complementary or alternative medicine - Meditation, yoga, and dietary supplements like vitamins and herbs may help lessen the side effects of the cancer treatments or of the cancer symptoms.

Hormonal therapy - Hormonal treatment is used to block cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.

Radiation - High-energy rays (similar to X-rays) that kill the cancer cells. The rays are aimed at the part of the body where the cancer is located.

Surgery - An operation where doctors cut out and remove cancer tissue.

Researchers continue to identify better ways to prevent, find, and treat breast cancer. Choosing which kind of treatment is right for you may be difficult. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the treatment options available for your type and stage of cancer. Doctors can explain the risks and benefits of each treatment and their side effects.  Consider a second opinion from more than one breast cancer doctor as well.  Your body and condition are unique. 

Keep in mind also that some tests used to diagnose cancer or to stage breast cancer may be repeated in order to see how well the treatment is working. Whether you continue, change, or stop treatment may be based on the results of these tests. This process is called re-staging.  Other follow-up tests may be performed from time to time after treatment has ended. The results of these tests can show if your condition has changed or if the cancer has recurred (come back). Throughout the process, stay in touch and communicate your needs to your doctor.  You might also join breast cancer support groups to support your physical and emotional process.

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